Chris Hughton made a perfect start to life as Nottingham Forest manager at the weekend, with the Reds defeating Blackburn Rovers by a goal to nil at Ewood Park.
It has been a disappointing start to the season for Forest, who went into the weekend’s fixture having lost their first four league games, scoring only once.
That torrid of run ultimately culminated in Sabri Lamouchi losing his job, but fans are largely optimistic ahead of the remainder of the season, with Chris Hughton coming in as the Frenchman’s successor.
Quiz: Do Nottingham Forest and Derby County have these 10 things in common?
Hughton’s tenure got off to the ideal start yesterday afternoon, with Forest defeating a Blackburn Rovers side who had made a positive start to the season under Tony Mowbray, mounting an early play-off push.
Forest were resolute as they battled their way towards a vital three points. Hughton’s side were well organised, resilient and tight at the back – they had to be, as they came up against the division’s leading scorers with 11 goals to their name.
And, after seeing Ryan Yates head over from 12 yards and hitting the post through Sammy Ameobi, the Reds were finally rewarded for a valiant second-half effort when Joe Lolley struck in injury-time.
It was a trademark finish by Lolley, who cut inside from the right and fired a sweet left-footed effort towards goal. The ball took a wild deflection, wrong-footing Thomas Kaminski and nestling into the bottom corner of the net.
Fortunate? Maybe, but a crucial goal that secured a vital win for the Reds, and one that may kickstart their season.
Here, then, we take a look at three things we clearly learnt about Forest after their 1-0 victory at Ewood Park…
Ioannou stands out again
There were very few positives about Forest’s performance in their 2-1 defeat to Bristol City a fortnight ago, a result that inevitably marked the end for Lamouchi on Trentside.
Nicholas Ioannou, though, was a standout player for Forest in that match at the City Ground, and the left-back proved his worth once again with an impressive display at Ewood Park.
The 24-year-old – a recent arrival from APOEL Nicosia – was arguably Forest’s most creative and threatening outlet going forward, causing real problems with his excellent left-footed deliveries into the area.
Ioannou was particularly effective in the first-half. His chipped pass into the chest of Luke Freeman created an opening for the Reds, however Cyrus Christie’s awkward cross had to be tipped onto the crossbar by Kaminski.
Ioannou also displayed his excellent crossing ability moments later, when his delicious cross on the half-volley found Lewis Grabban lurking at the back-post, but the striker was unable to apply the finishing touch.
Ultimately, full-backs have to defend too, and he more than matched Tyrhys Dolan for pace and won no end of duels in the air.
He is a strong, physical presence and one who shows plenty of endeavour going forward. He looks to be an astute acquisition for the Reds.
Major improvements at the back
Defending as a unit and conceding sloppy goals had been Forest’s Achilles heel heading into the clash at Ewood Park, and fans must have been fearing for the worst as they prepared to come up against the division’s leading goalscorers.
Forest had conceded seven goals in their first four games, but Hughton has clearly focused on defensive shape and organisation in his first week in charge. It certainly showed.
Scott McKenna and Tobias Figueiredo were tasked with handling the lively duo of Adam Armstrong and Ben Brereton, and limited them to very few chances.
You have to defend as a team, though, and the midfield screen of Ryan Yates, Jack Colback and his replacement Harry Arter gave Forest a real base in the middle of the park.
The whole team pressed as a unit and prevented Blackburn from playing with their usual high-tempo, and they limited Mowbray’s men to only one shot on goal, with Brereton’s long-range effort being stopped comfortably by Brice Samba.
Hughton will hope that this particular defensive performance is a sign of things to come, and that it will give them confidence going forward.
A weight off the shoulders
There’s no getting away from the fact that it has been an underwhelming start to the season for Forest, who will still have aspirations of finishing in the promotion places this term.
Their summer transfer business screams ambition, with the likes of Arter, Colback, Lyle Taylor, Luke Freeman and Anthony Knockaert all arriving at the City Ground.
They also now have a manager who has been there and done it in the Championship, winning promotion twice before with Brighton and Newcastle, and he has already lifted a huge weight off Forest’s shoulders.
It was scrappy, it was cagey, it was gritty, but Forest have been lacking that for a while, and Hughton will have been delighted to see his new side grind out a victory and turn a well-earned point into a vital win.
Hughton will nos be hoping that the shackles are off his new group of players, and with two very winnable home games against Rotherham and Derby coming up, there is a platform for Forest to pick up more points and finally start to climb the table.
With 123 points to play for, promotion is nowhere near an impossibility for the club just yet.